Chapter 63672654

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Chapter NumberVI
Chapter TitleA Plot.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63672654
Full Date1893-12-23
Page Number14
Corrections0
Word Count2639
IllustratedY
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleIllustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)
Trove TitleThe Story of a Jewelled Belt
article text

CHAPTER VI.

A Plot.

As Chester turned the corner of the street

in which Mrs. Thompson lived a man carno out of tho corner publiehouse and scowled at his retreating figure. Presently this man was joined by another.

" What d'ye think, Jack ? Is he a D. ?" I "I don't know rightly," said the first 1 man, " but we'll see presently." I

Let's go inside," he continued, " and lix I

up a way of fi niling out what ho wanted of

the widow."

According they retreated to the little back parlor of the hotel, and, ordering a couple of glasses of grog, proceeded to discuss

matters.

Chester would have given a good deal to have known one of these men, though, per- haps, he would not have been much the wiser had he merely seen him.

\ His name was Johnson, and he had Jheen an employee in the jewellery estab- lishment of Finks and Company, in

^London,

His friend was Colonel Dilke, one of the most accomplished blackguards and black- legs in the outer " fast " circles of London life. Too proud to be a bookmaker, he was yet not too proud to live on the " ring." That he had originally come of a good, clean minded stock of honorable ancestry was well known, but any claims this may have given him to respect had been long since negatived by his own life.

Johnson and he had come together in a gambling den, where mutual weaknesses and tastes had brought them.

The jeweller had told him as much of his history as seemed safe, and, for the rest, the money which Johnstone lavishly spent satis

fieri the "colonel" that she was a sufficiently desirable acquaintance.

Johnson was altered

a good deal from the portrait Chester had

obtained from Mrs.

Thompson. His hair had been dyed, his beard shaved, and several other little de- vices had boen resorted to in order to metamor- phose his appearance. Chester would certainly not have recognised him,

and it would have puzzled even his fellow

workmen at Pinks and

Company's to have iden- tified this fashionably

attired individual with tlie best jewel-setter in their establishment.

Chester had been right in his surmise that Johnson would, sooner orbiter, find his Avay to tho vicinity o f the widow Thompson. The ex jeweller really loved this woman with the deep, fierce passion which belongs to such quiet, pantherous natures. Now that he had come into that fortune of which

he had spoken to Mrs. Thompson, he could not help feeling that his Lances Avould be greater of Avinning her hand. . But he Avas a copi and

cautious experimentalist and, secure in his dis- guise, he had kept watch upon the widow's quar- ters to see who visited

her. In his dreams by day, as well as by night, he had a vision of certain quietlooking, keen men

tracking him down. For what ? Well, never mind, he had reason for his fears. The ocean was wide and his measure had heen taken with deadly ingenuity, but chance was a fickle, unreckonable element,

ready to stalk in and upset his ordered

Í. schemes.

When he saw Chester enter the widow's residence his heart misgave him. But he was uncertain whether Chester was what he feared or merely a gentleman looking for lodging, or upon some other harmless errand. Certainly his appearance gave the lie to the suspicion that he was a police officer. John- stone saw at a glance that he was a gentle- man born and bred. But, then, gentlemen are found in such peculiar employments to- day. He had known one to drive a hansom cab as a common licensed driver-a peer of the realm. Another peer had kept a market garden and sold carrots and cabbages. And yet another had figured as a poultry fannel in a small way. Might not this elegant looking gentleman, then, be a minion of thc law-a bloodhound of a special ability destined and intended, because of his appear- ance, to prosecute inquiries for Scotland Yard which could not be successfully prose- cuted by the ordinury detective ?

As Mr. Johnstone revolved ?'hose doubts in his mind a spirit of unrest and something like fear seized him-the first beginnings of that fierce flame of torture which devours the criminal who knows that he is being hunted down. Perhaps there is no more pitiable spectacle than this of a man with a crime on his hands which he knows the authorities are pursuing him for.

As for Johnstone, he could not rest till he knew whether his crime, by some almost unexampled feat of accident, had been discovered and connected with him. To go himself to the widow was out of the ques- tion. She would recognise him at once : and, if what he feared had really come tc pass, he would only be thrusting his heac into the lion's mouth by making inquiries, ir themselves suspicious, if not incriminating Obviously his only course was to delegate th

task to another person, and who so fit a

tfnlnnal Dil ha 9

Ile had not, of course, entrusted his whole history to this gentleman ; but a part of it Dilke knew, and had his own suspicion about the rest. Dilke suspected Johnson of having been a successful robber. That he was a murderer he did not dream, or, hardened sharper as he was, he would pro- bably have fought shy of so undesirable an

" ' I've a good mind,'' he thought, 1 to pitch those baubles into the Thames. They may prove my ruin yet. But, Lord, how lovely

they are!'"

acquaintance. Ile did not mind soiling his exceptionally white hands with other people's gold ; hut he stopped short at the deeper sin of dying them in blood. The two companions held a conversation.

" You'll have to go, colonel, to the widow, and find out who that man was, and what he was after. Mind, I must know. There may be trouble brewing for me in that quar- ter, and 1 must be prepared. You're skilful enough to manage to ascertain whether our swellish friend has any interest in me," said'

Johnson.

" I daresay," said the colonel, carelessly, " hut," he inquired with a yawn, " may I inquire what the trouble is-just to know the lines to go on, you know."

Johnstone looked at him darkly.

" None of that sort of thing," he said, with an oath, " you have your secrets and I have mine. Let them rest. I didn't inquire why you were in hiding the other day at old

Lazarus'."

The colonel flushed.

" Oh 1 it doesn't matter," he said, with an attempt at a laugh. "We're in a swim together, and, as you say, our past history does not concern each other, however much it may interest Scotland Yard."

"No," said Johnson, drily. "But the sooner you find out what I want the better

I'll be pleased."

" Very well," replied the colonel, " I'll go at once and pump the widow."

As he said this he drained his glass, arose

and went out.

Johnstone remained buried in deep thought

for a time.

Presently he drew out of the breast- pocket of his coat a stout leather purse and opened it. The gleam of precious stones, rubies, emeralds, and diamonds filled his

eyes. There was a collection of stones there

wnvth nt Ifin.ef. £fiOftrt

" Tve a good mind," he thought, " to pitch those baubles into the Thames. They may prove my ruin yet. But, Lord, how lovely they are ! I've risked too much for their possession to part with them that way. But I must realise at once. Old Lazarus can have them at his price. He can place them where I can't; but the old ruffian is bound to swindle me in the deal. All he offered for them was £2500-half their value. I know the worth of every one of them better than he does. To-morrow, if I go to him, he'll ofter me £2000. Next week he'll knock off another £500. The old villain knows well enough that they have

been got in a queer way, though how I got them neither he nor any other man knowe. That old lunatic has gone to the bottom of the river, and long before this is past recognition if there were anyone to recognise him. Well, I've not knocked much enjoy-

ment out of them so far."

In this way he meditated, looked at the glittering baubles which had been obtained at the price of life, when a step sounded in the passage.

Hastily he hid the pouch, and at the same moment Dilke entered with a grave look on

his face.

"Well?" said Johnson, with an attempt

at calmness.

Dilke shook his head. " They're after you, old man," he said. Johnson started and turned pallid.

" How do you know ?" he inquired hoarsely.

" The widow told me so-not in so many words, but I gathered it from what she let drop."

" Did you find out what for ?" asked John- son, anxiously.

" Well, no, I didn't," said the colonel, coolly, " but I reckon it's something bad. The widow spoke of you with horror."

Johnson ground his teeth.

" Did you find out that fellow's name and address ?" he inquired, fiercely.

"I did," said the colonel. " By a fortu- nate accident a slip from a notebook was lying on the table, and I copied the name

and address down. Here it is."

Jonnson reached for it eagerly, and glanced at it.

" By the way," the colonel went on, " I found out, too, that he is not a proper de- tective ; only a gentleman amateur just re- turned from Australia, and looking you up

on his own account."

The perspiration stood out on Johnson's forehead. For a few moments he reflected, and then a look of relief passed over his

face.

" I hope you didn't let on that you knew me," he said to the colonel.

" No," said the latter. " I rather incline to the belief that she thinks me a detective, too," he went on, with a laugh. " Rather a good joke that. And I might as well tell you that you. have no show there. I know you're a bit spoony on Mrs. Thompson, but she's an honest, good, little woman, and I think would hand you over to the police the moment you put your nose inside the door. Oh, and another thing, She told me that our

gentlemen friend has taken a photograph of you away in his pocket.

Once more the ex-

pression of Johnson's face deepened into a

scowl.

" That fellow had better look out for him- self," he said, and his face looked murderous.

The colonel watched him curiously.

" I wouldn't get any deeper into hot water if I were you, Johnson," he said, quietly.

Look after yourself," returned tlie other, brief- ly and savagely.

" I have done that for a good while now," said' the colonel, with a smile. " By the way, could you let me have a couple of tenners ? I've got a billiard match on to-night up at the Adelph with Taverner."

" Here you are," said Johnson, handing him

the amount.

" Thank you," said the colonel, as he arose ; " see you to-morrow." And in the street he muttered, . " What a savage that

fellow is ! He looks fit for murder, and I wouldn't be a bit sur-

prised if that's what he is wanted for. Ugh !" he thought, with a shudder, " I wonder why fellows do such beastly things. Only that Johnson is in funds I'd drop him. He's really not fit com- pany for a gentleman."

Johnson, on his part made his way to his lodgings, nad sat down

to write a note. It ran thus :

" If Mr. Chester would call at Mrs. Thomp- son's to-night he will hear something about he knows who. About ll o'clock will be

the best time, as the street is quiet and no- body is likely to be about. I have heard something important."

Johnstone walked out into the street, and, hailing a cabman, handed him the note directed t¿ the address given by Chester to Mrs. Thompson, and gave him half a sovereign to carry it there for him.

Then he went back to his room, and made some arrangements. First he took a piece of stout canvas, and sewed this into a bag about the length and diameter of a rolling pin. Then he went out to a building yard near by, and procured some sand. Going back to his room he filled the canvas tightly with the sand and sewed up the loose end. Having completed hi.-i arrangements, he took up this weapon and looked grimly at it. It was a weapon once much in favor with the secret assassins of Hindostán, and was cunningly devised to kill without even abrading the skin. The place on which the murderer struck was the

base of the skull. Death from this cause had often baffled medical skill. For, tho

Melbourne doctor who had conducted the post-mortem upon the man found in the Yarra had never dreamt of the nature of the weapon which had killed him-indeed, had never known that there was such a weapon in the strange and deadly armshouse of the criminal, ...

At 10 o'clock Johnson put on a black overcoat, aud placed the sandbag in his pocket. He then lit a cigar and went out into the night, which was dark and drizzling. At right angles to the street in which Mrs. Thompson lived, and intersecting it, was a right-of-way. In this place, at a qtirter to IT, Johnson took his post. The street was quiet and completely deserted by wayfarers. Every now and then a cab spun quickly by,

and from the hotel at the corner came the

sound of hilarity of a distinctly bibulous character. The rain came thickly down with a soft rustle like the speech of darkness.

The night was chilly, but the dark figure waiting at the corner did not feel cold.

There were inward fires in his bosom which defied the night and rain to quench. Going close to him one would have seen a pale face like a flake of snow and a pair of gleaming eyes, waiting with the patience of hate. By-and-bye a heavy footstep sounded

in the street. Johnson knew the official

walk of the policeman, and cowered closer against the side of the right-of-way. But the officer passed without a thought of the deadly figure crouching in the gloom. Pi ve minutes passed, and his slow footsteps had died out when another step, light, quick, and active, sounded in the street. Johnson knew that they were coming his way, and gathered himself for his spring.

Chester came lightly along, with a cigar in his mouth, and swinging his cane, think- ing of anything but what was about to happen. As he passed the right-of-way a figure stepped out as swiftly as a leopard leaps. Chester thought the sky had fallen on him. He dropped without a groan. For a moment Johnson, looked down on him .with an evil, white face, on which gleamed the ghost of a smile. Then he passed swiftly up the street, slitting the sand-bag with his knife and letting the sand pour out. Later he tossed the empty bag over a con- venient fence, and all traces of the means by which he had removed his enemy were

gone. i